Christmas crab

Updated: Jan 23

Hi there.


Nice to see you again.


As I type this, I look outside between words to savor the snow-trimmed branches, the first of the season. It has taken me about ten minutes to write this sentence. That’s how many times I’ve looked ‘tween the panes, as visions of sugar plums dance in my brains...

Well, ‘tis the season, which means it’s Christmas, Christmas all the time. Christmas music (“Alexa, play jazzy Christmas!” because, yes, we keep it classy), candles with names like “Joy” and “Frazier Fir,” and Christmas movies galore.


A few nights ago, we watched Christmas episodes of 30 Rock and The Office because I couldn’t find any worthwhile – aka not Lifetime or Hallmark or streaming service specific – holiday movies for free on Amazon Prime, Netflix, OR Hulu. While I’m all for the holiday spirit, the abundance of new movies seems to be getting a little out of control. What about the classics, like The Family Stone?! Oh wait – that doesn’t count? Well, it does in the Wolff household.


We bought six Christmas classics last year on Amazon: A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Scrooged, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Die Hard. Obviously. However, it felt too early for these prime picks. So, as we watched Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon remember the true meaning of Christmas, I wrote a list of eligible Christmas movies, which included:


  • Miracle on 34th Street (the original version, of course)

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon version, as Leah and I always watch the Jim Carrey version, along with Elf, on Christmas Eve – so save those for us, Leah!!)

  • The Snowman (a dazzling animated short and “a seasonal favorite on British and Finnish television” with a magical musical accompaniment and no words except for the St. Paul’s Cathedral choirboy who sings the ever-iconic song Walking in the Air during the flight scene

  • Frozen

  • The Santa Clause

  • The Holiday

  • And, last but certainly not least, The Family Stone


Dennis added Scrooge, the 1984 version with George C. Scott, to which I replied, rather aggressively, “UGH. NO...All the Christmas Carols BORE me.”


“Do you know what we call that?” he said. “Bah humbug.”


“Says the man who just grumbled at 75% of my Christmas movie list.”


He was right, of course, but it’s true. A lover of classics, I’ve watched many a version of A Christmas Carol over the years, including the 1951 black and white, George C. Scott, Mickey’s Christmas Carol (still my personal fave), and the Muppets. The 26-minute Mickey Mouse version and Scrooged with Bill Murray are the only two that hold my attention throughout. It is what it is.


Then again, I’ve been a bit crabbier than usual lately. I could blame it on the recent cocktail of hormones surging through my body, and I probably will, because that makes me feel better about myself. I like to think of myself as a generally positive person, someone easily moved to deep emotion and easily entertained by the smallest of small.

However, sometimes the crab gets the better of me – as it once did for the Wolff family.


A few years ago, Mama decided to shake things up and make crab cakes for Christmas dinner. Never before having bought a container of fresh crab meat, we wondered if it was supposed to smell as strong as it did – a smell that intensified into a distinctly sour wet dog smell when we cooked it, forcing us to open doors and windows to sub-zero temperatures. Even at that point, we sallied forth, not wanting to waste it. As luck would have it, it tasted perfectly fine, and no one got sick afterward. It remains a mystery to this day. Maybe we cooked off all the funk? Whatever happened, we ended up on the other side of it.


My slight undercurrent of funk erupted this past Sunday morning. I woke up feeling just fine, but one small annoyance after another piled up. I spilled chia seeds all over the floor, I lost one of the window suction cups that holds Mama’s hand crocheted snowflakes and needed to resort to unsightly tape, and then, as I attempted to remove leftover IVF meds from their precarious place in the packed closet, half of the items piled high in said closet fell on my head. It happened in slow succession, as if the items were in collusion: “How long before she loses it?...One more box of matches? One more frisbee?” Yes, that closet it a hot mess.


I completely lost my shit. So much for O Neg. I sounded just like, well, Scrooge. Dennis sat silently on the couch, waiting it out like a good husband until I came to my senses.


As he left to run to the store a few minutes later, he noticed a package for me sitting outside our door: a surprise “Thinking of you” gift and sweet note from my doctor and health coach at Parsley Health.


“Well, shit,” I thought. “Life is good.”


And it has a remarkable way of reminding you of this when funk hits.


The rest of the day was beautiful. Dennis and I ventured out into the horrendous gusting wind and hail for a short walk in Central Park that turned into a long walk, a stroll through the festive Plaza Food Hall, lunch, and a train ride to and from Michael’s to look for some crafting accoutrement.


We rounded out the day by ushering in the holiday season with our first Christmas movie of the year: Die Hard. Dennis even pulled out the accompanying picture book I bought for him last year and read along.


It’s the little things that annoy me the most, but it’s also the little things I appreciate the most. At least it goes both ways. And, just as we did with the Christmas crab, I ended up on the other side of the funk.

Because I’ve been listening to most jazzy Christmas songs so far, I haven’t yet heard the one about the little boy who counts out pennies to buy shoes for his mama because they’re just her size and she’s very sick and he wants her to look beautiful if she meets Jesus tonight. I don’t know what it is about this song, but it always hits me hard. It’s a country song (not folk, country – and, yes, there’s a clear difference), so it automatically loses most of its possible points. Then there’s the whole Jesus thing, casually slipped in there, which somehow makes it a Christian song. More points lost.


Yet every time I hear it – which is about seven times driving to and from different Upstate locations whilst listening to Lite 97.3 – my mind floats out of my body, and I inadvertently find myself gazing out the window, misty-eyed.


Leah, trying to get my attention: “Jame. Jame!...Oh lord. It’s the shoe song, here we go.”


Me, eyes red-rimmed, choking back sobs: “I can’t help it! I need to have this moment!”

And then the bridge, when the man standing in line behind the little boy wails with passionately superfluous twang:


So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out

And I'll never forget the look on his face when he said

Mama's gonna look so great


I’m done.


See? I’m not a grinch. This is me at my holiday best: an overflowing well of gratitude and faith inspired by a song that affects me to an extent I will never quite understand.


We all have crabby moments. We all have moments when the smallest things drive us up the wall for no legitimate reason. Maybe we didn’t get enough sleep, maybe we’re hungry, maybe we’re just overly stressed out and the fact that macadamia nuts aren’t on sale like you want them to be because they’re so friggin’ expensive and you really want them right now is the final straw. Whatever the reason, it’s all good. It happens. Funky crab happens.


The important thing is to be able to air yourself out and arrive at the good side of the funk. It helps to turn to gratitude, and it helps to laugh at your ridiculous self. It also helps to give yourself about 20 seconds of self-reflection, which is usually all you need to see what just happened and turn it around: “You know what? It’s fine. No biggie.” That’s what works for me anyway.


Anyway, thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.

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